There is something special about Krakow and the way still gives such royal vibes. And discovering the city will come as a delightful surprise.
Krakow might not be the biggest* city in Poland but it ranks first as a tourist destination, for a good reason. As for the mystery of Poland’s largest city, a quick peek into Framey’s blog will solve that right away.
But returning to Krakow, the city offers spectacular views of the medieval castle, narrow, idyllic cobbled streets, and squares, with luxurious parks, wild nightlife, and such a rich cultural experience. And it is an incredibly walkable place so bring on your walking shoes and let’s discover the 25 Must-visit places in Krakow + the 5 hidden gems.
And speaking of gems, you can really feel their presence in the air. A mix of medieval and youthful vibe, history, of tragedy mingled with hope and life.
1st gem: Father Bernatek Footbridge
Seeing the paddocks and sculptures on Father Bernatek Footbridge makes you reminisce about your first love and how it felt to be so hopeful. The acrobatic sculptures stranded on the cords of the bridge feel like a dance you should capture, especially at dusk, while imagining the love stories the paddocks tell.
2nd gem: Zakrzowek
Another serendipitous feeling catches you off guard at Zakrzowek. A natural paradise for drivers, rock-climbers, and nature admirers, the deep blue water reservoir and its surroundings are simply the best way to reach that contemplating state of mind.
3rd gem: Krakus Mound
And that’s not the only incredible view you get in Krakow. Climbing the mysterious Krakus Mound gives another unique experience. The legend talks about prince Krak, the founder of Krakow, and how he lies buried there. This is not the only mound in Krakow, as the city has four of them, but you can say that it is the most mysterious one.
4th gem: The Wolski Forest
The Wolski Forest offers another type of vibe and sanctuary. It is a recreation paradise for nature-lovers and a wildlife sanctuary. But there is so much more to this place! You have Camaldonese Monastry and the Przegorzaly castle topped by some of the best and most romantic views you can get of the Vistula River.
5th gem: Tyniec Historic Village
Vistula River has another gem to show you. And, if history is your cup of tea, just head to Tyniec Historic Village. The abbey on the top of the rock, the river flowing at its feet, and the whole ensemble give such back-in-time medieval vibes!
Still, wondering what the best and the most famous landmarks that made it to Framey’s 25 Must-Visit places to see in Krakow are? Well, let’s have a look!
1. Wawel Royal Castle
The most iconic monument in Krakow, the Unesco-listed Wawel Castle, is a testament to the power and importance Polish monarchs held throughout history in Krakow.
It looks most impressive, situated on the top of the hill completing the Old Town ensemble with the Wawel Cathedral.
And if you are impressed by the picturesque outside of the Castle, allow yourself to be captivated by the sumptuous rooms and collections the museum has in store and learn more about Polish history.
2. Wawel Cathedral
The beautiful Wawel Cathedral is not just one of the most important and impressive monuments but also the coronation and burial place for many Polish monarchs and prominent personalities.
Various architectural styles are mingled here, from baroque to Gothic to Tuscan Renaissance, and yet, the Cathedral is eye candy, beautiful, and incredibly important for the city’s history and life.
And if churches, monasteries, and religious culture interest you, you are in luck as Krakow has plenty of sites for you to check. Framey’s collection: Must-see Churches and Cathedrals in Krakow – is the place to start!
3. St. Mary’s Basilica
The 14th-century Brick Gothic wonder has seen a lot of reworks over the following centuries.
But there are so many things to admire about St. Mary Basilica. The first thing you hear is the Trumpet Call played in honor of the 13th-century city trumpeter sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack.
The inside has the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world that took no less than seven years to finish, for the sculpted figures alone.
4. The Ghetto Heroes Square
You can not visit Krakow without discovering places with history stained by the actions of the Nazi occupants.
The Ghetto Heroes Square is such a place. This place is where the Nazis gathered the Jewish people before deporting them to the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Plaszow.
The emotional memorial consists of 68 empty chairs symbolizing the thousands of people sent to death.
5. Rynek Główny Central Square
Known as the largest medieval square in Europe, Krakow Central Square is on the list of places you must check while visiting the city. You might find yourself spending a lot of your evening walks admiring the square and its surroundings.
It has always been a major social, trade, and entertainment hub. All around the square, you will discover tourist attractions, restaurants, shops, and fascinating museums to entertain you.
And the architectural style of the buildings makes the atmosphere feel enchanted and makes you want to linger on and enjoy the views.
6. Polish Aviation Museum
For any aviation, history, and world-wars enthusiasts this specific museum will be a real treat.
The Polish Aviation Museum has to show an extensive collection of old aircraft, gliders, helicopters, and engines. It is, in fact, one of the largest aviation museums in the world and a true treasure for all interested parties.
The iconic building Sukiennice or Cloth Hall is not just a beautiful Renaissance building, with gargoyles and an impressively decorated facade. It is also one of the oldest shopping malls, sort of speaking. The building, standing proud in the middle of the beautiful central square, attests to Krakow’s importance in the textile trading of the era, beginning with the 13th century.
Throughout time the building went through a lot of architectural transformations. And today it houses some of the most representative museums like the Rynek Underground, lovely cafe terraces, and plenty of souvenir shops for you to step in.
If you find yourself charmed by Krakow don’t miss out on Framey’s Collection: Exploring Krakow – Find out your favorite spots. There is so much more for you to discover!
8. Planty Park
Encircling the most famous part of Krakow, the Old Town, Planty Park has a belt-like shape around the medieval city fortress walls. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the quiet, delightful time spent in this green, flowery decor. A labyrinth of paths, benches all around, impressive monuments and statues, and parks serve as a starting point for visiting Krakow’s neighborhoods. And at the same time, it is an enjoyable site and experience in itself.
9. Mocak Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art MOCAK is one of the more recent tourist attractions. Krakow was missing a contemporary art museum, as it has always been home to the elite avant-garde Polish artists. And a Contemporary art museum sits well in a modern minimalist glass and concrete building at the Schindler’s Factory.
Being such a young institution, it’s no wonder it exhibits mostly temporary shows while still working on creating its identity and a permanent collection.
10. Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
Located in the Old Town, the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is considered a jewel sample of early Baroque Architecture.
Its lavish exterior contrasts the austere inside of the church but, there is a perfectly reasonable story behind it all. The Jesuits spent a great deal more than expected on the beautiful facade and there was little left for the interior. Yet, a bit of lavishness hurt no one and you can see it on the gold-engraved altarpieces.
11. Muzeum Krakowa – Barbakan
What is a Barbican? The short answer is a fortified outpost, and Krakow’s Barbakan has proven itself impenetrable. The 15th-century medieval military fortification used to be part of the city’s defensive walls and now stands alone and strong.
Certainly, it is worth an inside visit, both for the little museum and the courtyard. And just imagine how impressive it must have been back in its glory days!
12. St. Florian’s Gate
Saint Florian’s Gate is right across from the Barbakan. The fortified outpost, along with the gate, is most of what remained from ancient defense walls.
The baroque gate is the last one standing and the most important one leading you into Krakow’s Old Town. The medieval vibe is kept alive by the street musicians playing under the tower and the local painters showing off their art.
13. Plaszow Concentration Camp
There is no escaping history in Krakow. A reminiscence of wars and the horrors that occurred back then teaches us how important it is to make sure the past mistakes don’t repeat.
Plaszow Concentration Camp was a concentration camp the Nazis had built in the suburbs of Krakow. Holocaust took a great tow on the Polish Jews targeted by the Nazi regime and we are never supposed to forget or deny that history page.
14. Corpus Christi Church
One grand Catholic church lies in the heart of the Jewish district. Corpus Christi Church is a 14th-century beautiful red brick church, showing a stunning mix of Baroque and Gothic architecture.
The exterior is impressive and invites you to step in, but nothing prepares you for the rich and uplifting experience you get inside. The altar, the paintings, and the sculptures make for one of the finest, well-decorated houses of prayer. So if you are in the Kaminierz district take a few moments for yourself and enjoy the experience.
15. Monument of the Wawel Dragon
Dragons and castles do go hand in hand, don’t they?
The legendary Wawel dragon is said to have lived in the cave under the hill, during king Krakus’s time. There are different versions of the tale and of how the dragon was slain. But, in honoring the legends, a great monument, the Wawel Dragon was created.
The Wawel Dragon is one of the most popular tourist spots in Krakow, especially with the younger crowds and especially when the famous dragon breathes Fire. Cool, isn’t it?
16. Benedictine Abbey of Tyniec
The site of the Benedictine Abbey is quite impressive. It feels almost unbelievable that you are still in the city and yet so far from it somehow, transported into another time.
Up there on the cliff top, lies a surreal-looking monastery with its towers and a little museum. There is also a little cafe on the Bellavista and a small gift shop with items the monks make locally so you can have a cool souvenir.
17. Town Hall Tower
One of the main attractions in the Old Town, the Town Hall Tower stands proud, overlooking the area, from its 75-meter height. The Tower is the only standing part of the old Town Hall, that got demolished. And it would have been a real pity if they had torn it down, as it turned into one of the most attractive sightseeing spots. And for good reason.
Visiting the Historical Museum, housed inside the Tower, as well as reaching the top level, is worth it both for the views and the history lesson kept inside.
18. Grunwald Monument
The Grunwald Monument represents the equestrian statue of Wladyslaw II – king of Poland. And since there is a story behind every monument, there is one here as well.
This one, is about ancient war alliances between Poland and Lithuania and the Teutonic knights, and how they won. Well, the original monument was severely damaged in the second world war but it was rebuilt and lived to tell the tale again.
19. Church of St Joseph
There are a lot of beautiful churches and monasteries in Krakow to see. And the church of St. Joseph is one of the most beautiful ones in the entire city. Gargoyles, sculptures, a clock tower, and a really beautiful brick facade. And it is not just the Church of St. Joseph that has such a charming vibe, but the entire area, the outdoor area, and the park surrounding it!
And another tip: great lighting makes this church one of the most photogenic places at night in Krakow.
20. Royal Way (Droga Krolewska)
Back in the days when Krakow was the capital and aristocracy ruled the Old Town, the Royal Way was the center heart of the city, where the most important proceedings took place.
Taking a stride from St. Florian’s Gate and the Barbakan to the Wawel Castle, you’ll be stepping on the same route the Polish monarchs did. And the Royal Way is still the stage for religious processions and other festive and joyous occasions.
21. Jagiellonian University – Collegium Juridicum
Poland’s most prestigious and old university, the Jagiellonian University has a multi-century history behind it since its foundation in 1364. If you are curious as to who is the most famous personality that studied here, I would have to say that Copernicus is the one. The university library still has one of the largest collections of medieval texts including Copernicus: De Revolutionibus.
“Plus ration quam Vis” or “Reason is greater than force” motto seems most appropriate here in Krakow, at the Jagiellonian University.
22. Szczepanski Square
A bit of a sanctuary from the crowded central Square, Szczepanski square is quite easy to find. Provided that you pronounce its name correctly. It means Stephan in English and might be easier when asking for directions.
With a lot of beautiful Art-Nouveau buildings surrounding it and the multimedia-lighted fountain, the leisure park turned into one of the favorite places to cool down and relax, both for tourists and locals alike.
The symbol of artistic search, The Contemporary Art Museum, and Performing Art spaces honoring the works and archives of Tadeusz Kantor is a well-deserved homage to the Polish artist. It is a true landmark whether you like the architectural style of the building or not.
You can admire the museum, get a cup of coffee on the 4th floor and soak in the views or even admire its unique silhouette from a boat.
It is quite a unique and unconventional museum, but one in line with the artist’s vision and work.
24. Grodzka Street
If you are a tourist in Krakow, this is the one street to be in. One of the oldest streets in the city, it’s packed with shops, cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Like anywhere else in the touristic part of Krakow, the architecture is great, buildings and churches alike.
Plus, it leads you to the central Square to Wawel Castle so, it’s located right at the heart of your visit route.
25. St. Barbara’s Church
Saint Barbara Church is yet another Gothic little gem. Nowadays, the church sits in the center of the city, but this used to be a cemetery and this was the cemetery’s little chapel.
There are stories and myths surrounding the little, beautiful church. One story tells the tale of a professor who conducts post mortems and exercises on cadavers, back in the 18th century when the University’s clinical hospital was housed here. Scary stories aside, this really is one beautiful site to check next time you are in Krakow!
I hope you enjoyed Framey’s 25 Must-visit places in Krakow + the 5 hidden gems we’ve uncovered for you. And let us know what you loved best in the royal city of Krakow.
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